Gallipolis Daily Tribune - 6/27/2017
Members of the Gallia criminal justice system and citizens pushing back against drug addiction discuss steps to address the problem of the drug epidemic in Ohio.
GALLIPOLIS — As at least 11 Ohioans die every day of drug overdoses and as county jails across the state house more inmates than ever, many with opioid addictions, Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery (Gallia CPR) spoke with Gallia County Common Pleas Judge Margaret Evans and Gallipolis Municipal Judge Eric Mulford recently about the programs they both operate.
“Drug court” is a specialized docket that provides intensive services to eligible non-violent criminal offenders who have been placed on probation and are diagnosed with a moderate to severe substance use disorder. A desire to get sober and a commitment to complete four levels of drug court over a period of one year is necessary to enter the program. The program in each court incorporates evidence-based practices proven to reduce substance use and criminal activity among participants. The model includes weekly meetings between the drug court judge, probation officer, case managers, treatment providers, and clients. Each client, as one of the conditions of their probation, must comply with an individual treatment plan established with their case manager and treatment provider. Each client receives incentives for remaining in compliance and drug-free, while immediate and graduated sanctions are imposed for any infractions.
“We started drug court in 2006, and a mental health docket in 2007, to address the habitual repeat offender. We were seeing several defendants who continually cycled through the court with charges. The majority of defendants in the criminal justice system are struggling with addiction and mental health issues,” said Evans. “Through drug court, we can provide intensive supervision, treatment and structure. During the first phases of drug court, a participant is seen by a drug court team member nearly every day. It’s a difficult process for someone in addiction but those who complete the year-long program attain a sense of self-worth and avoid future crime.”
“I’m pleased with the progress I’ve seen with some of our drug court clients,” added Mulford. “We have clients who are now sober for the first time in years. It’s a win-win for the community when the defendant is sober because in addition to improving their own lives, we are enhancing public safety and we are not using community resources to pay for the collateral consequences of their criminal activity.”
Both drug courts currently operate with special projects funds set aside from court costs, but both courts hope to receive funding for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 through grants administered by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. Nearly all of the clients’ case management and treatment services are paid for by Medicaid, given that many are indigent when they enter drug court.
“We have been blessed with excellent treatment partners in our drug courts. Most courts limit treatment to one provider. And, the reviewers are amazed that we are able to be so effective with as many providers as we have,” Evans said. “I applaud our providers who show up for team meeting every week and provide input to help the participants succeed in recovery.”
“One of the clients in our drug court who I am most proud of has completely transformed his life. Instead of committing theft offenses to feed his addiction, he is celebrating ten months of sobriety and has a good full time job,” Mulford said. “This type of success story is what we strive for with every client.”
Both Evans and Mulford said that identifying more employers willing to give one of the successful drug court graduates a chance for a job was important to their long-term goals for both programs.
The common pleas court drug court currently serves 6 clients with a projected number of 20, while the municipal court drug court currently has 31 participants. Both courts partner with Field of Hope Community Campus, Health Recovery Services, Integrated Services, Spectrum, TASC of Southeast Ohio, Wing Haven, and Woodland Centers to provide case management and treatment to clients.
Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery is a coalition of faith-based, civic, law enforcement and behavioral health agencies working with Gallia County citizens, all sharing the goal of fighting drug abuse in the region. Gallia CPR meets in the French 500 Room of Holzer Medical Center every second Monday of the month at noon. For more information about Gallia CPR, visit its Facebook page.
For more information about the common pleas court, contact the bailiff at (740) 446-4612. For more information about the municipal court, contact the bailiff at (740) 446-9400, Ext. 226.